In response to a couple of lithium battery punctures that led to two Model S sedans going up in flames in 2013, the folks at Tesla have come up with what seems to be an effective way to prevent similar accidents in the future.
In both cases, the battery compartments of the cars that went ablaze were damaged by road debris, leading to engine fires since lithium combusts when exposed to air. Tesla’s solution? Moving forward, all Model S sedans will come with a three-layer battery shield that is made out of ballistic grade titanium and aluminum.
During ther initial response to the battery fires, which brought lots of negative publicity, Tesla updated the software powering Model S sedans, preventing drivers from lowering the suspension while moving at high-speeds.
That update plus the improved protection for the lithium battery compartments on Model S sedans is expected to reduce the odds of similar accidents occurring in the future to “virtually zero” according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
As if responding to the recent changes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently cleared Tesla’s Model S sedans, which were under lots of scrutiny following the engine fires in 2013, stating no defective trend was found that would indicate Model S sedans were unsafe vehicles.
The new battery shields can be found on all Model S sedans manufactured after March 6, and Tesla service centers will be giving free installations to those driving Model S sedans that were produced before the recent changes.
Tesla’s Model S sedans already have an impressive safety record, and Musk seems pleased with the new addition to the battery compartment.
“During the course of 152 vehicle level tests, the shields prevented any damage that could cause a fire or penetrate the existing quarter inch of ballistic grade aluminum armor plate that already protects the battery pack,” Tesla’s CEO explained in a recent statement. We have tried every worst case debris impact we can think of, including hardened steel structures set in the ideal position for a piking event, essentially equivalent to driving a car at highway speeds into a steel spear braced on the tarmac.”
Musk also pointed out that despite all the negative publicity Tesla received following the battery fires, their track record — when it comes to engine fires — is still considerably better than their competitors who produce gasoline-powered vehicles.